NEW DELHI: Scientists across the globe are looking at the relationship between air pollution and COVID-19 spread.
A World Bank study estimates that expected coronavirus cases rise by nearly 100 per cent when pollution concentrations increase by 20 per cent.
Also, Particulate Matter PM 2.5 is a highly significant predictor of the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related hospital admissions.
The World Bank paper, in pre-prints and yet to be peer-reviewed, said several COVID-19 hotspots around the world are located in highly polluted areas.
It cites pollution levels in China’s Hubei province, the origin of COVID-19, and the most heavily hit Italian region, the Lombardy area in the northern Po valley, which has among the worst air quality in Europe.
An assessment of pollution levels in India’s 20 heavy-load Covid-19 districts in 10 states announced by the health ministry shows over 45 per cent of them have PM 2.5 levels above the permissible limits.
Studies show long-term exposure to particles in the PM2.5 can cause throat and lung irritation, runny nose and shortness of breath.
In seven of the 15 heavy-load Covid-19 districts (data was available for 15 districts on the National Air Quality Index), the PM 2.5 level was above the limit of 60 microgram per cubic meter set by the CPCB.
The higher particulate level is reported during the lockdown, even as major sources of pollution such as industry, transport and construction are either non-operational or running below capacity.
The World Bank findings call for further investigation into the association between air pollution and SARS-CoV-2 infection risk.
The study investigated the relationship between exposure to PM.2.5 and Covid-19 incidence in 355 municipalities in the Netherlands using data on confirmed cases and hospital admissions coded by residence, along with PM2.5, PM10, population density, demographics and health-related pre-conditions.
“If PM2.5 plays a significant role in the incidence of Covid-19 disease, it has implications for the mitigation strategies required to prevent spreading, particularly in areas that have high levels of pollution,” it said